The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has published its 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. The four strategic goals of the department are: increased accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; improved effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of justice services; transformed legal services to protect and advance the interests of government and citizens and backlogs in respect of all criminal, civil and family matters; and effective coordination of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster in the delivery of Outcome 3.
SELECTED DEPARTMENTAL PROGRAMMES AND PRIORITIES:
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster’s realisation of reduced crime and corruption will be strengthened through greater coordination and interaction between the Cluster and aligned role-players to mount a united front against crime and corruption; the finalisation and implementation of the Social Crime Prevention Strategy and the Restorative Justice Strategy; finalisation of a baseline report on corruption; addressing the outcomes of the crime perception survey of victims of crime; the implementation of integrated information and communication technology systems across the cluster to enhance coordinated crime fighting.
A major challenge preventing access to justice is the historical court infrastructure imbalances of the past. This is aggravated by escalating infrastructure costs. These costs impact hugely on the building of new courts, the balancing of the need for additional courts with the maintenance and accessibility of existing courts, and the establishment of new areas of services. The Department recognises the need for a major recapitalisation of the justice infrastructure in specifically identified areas.
Ongoing implementation of a cooperative plan of action to improve the speedy and effective administration of estates of minors and to protect them from deceit and fraud, especially those in child-headed households. There is a need for a stronger online verification process to ensure the identity and credibility of claimants against the children’s Guardian’s fund, a fund into which the proceeds of litigation for children are paid and claimed against.
A turnaround plan for maintenance services will be implemented in 2011/12 which will cover application procedures, application processing, payments and punitive measures for defaulting parents.
The Plan notes two court rulings that had an impact on Children’s Courts. These are The Centre for Child Law v Minister of Social Development, and C and Other v Department of Health and Social Development. The former addressed the backlog in foster care order reviews and renewals created by the Children’s Act requirement that foster order be reviewed by the Children’s Court, rather than administratively as previously required. The court ordered that the problem should be addressed by legislative amendments by 2014, and until such time all foster care orders will be deemed to be renewed. The latter saw the Constitutional Court declare Section 151 and 152 of the Children’s Act unconstitutional because they did not oblige the immediate review of the removal of a child by the Children’s Court.
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